The Truth About the 7-Minute Workout

Transform your body in just 7 minutes.

The idea seems like something you’d see on TV at 3 am, with some cheesy, fit pitchman making too-good-to-be-true claims. As you process the reported benefits—more muscle, less fat—everything in your body screams “scam,” but the source isn’t QVC—it is The New York Times and the rage that is the 7-minute workout.

We’re not talking about a piece of equipment that looks like it was dreamt up by 13-year-old boys, it’s research published in the American College of Sports Medicine Health and Fitness Journal.

Next thing you know, Forbes is writing about the workout and the buzz has spread to Good Morning America. The 7-minute workout is real and it works…at least, that’s what the mainstream media would have you believe. And yet, doesn’t this feel a little played out? I mean, have we already forgotten about “8-Minute Abs?” It’s been nearly 20 years since it was released, and during that time obesity rates have nearly doubled.

Here’s a disclaimer: I don’t have a problem with the 7-minute workout. I take issue with setting unrealistic expectations that trick people into believing a “minimum effective dose” can lead to maximum results. This is the foundation of frustration.

New scientific discoveries are capable of uncovering new information that alters what we believe and thought was true; in fact, it happens all the time. The problem is we oftentimes trust what we want to believe rather than seek to prove if it’s true. That’s the issue with the recent release of the 7-minute workout. We’ve been misled by a catchy title that has some benefits but falls short on long-term promises.

There’s no denying that exercise—in any dose—is good for your body. In fact, when I travel, I’m constantly settling for 10-15 minute workouts instead of my normal 30- to 60-minute session. And you can have a great workout in less than 10 minutes.

But don’t confuse the part from the whole: it is very difficult (and unlikely) to build a healthy body by working out 7 minutes per day and only performing bodyweight exercises, which is the foundation of the 7-minute workout. And I’ll go on record that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that has. After all, if it only took 7 minutes to get into great shape, the struggle to lose fat would be less of an issue.

Before you start cranking out the “perfect workout” at home and expecting dramatic results or buy into the inevitable 7-minute session coming soon to a gym near you, here’s what you can really take away from the research, and what you can realistically expect to achieve if you follow this routine.

Where the 7-Minute Workout Study Failed

Understand that research in the exercise field oftentimes falls within two categories: Studies that use prior research to validate prior concepts or designs that test something new while building on previous research. The 7-minute workout is more of the former; it looked at the perceived benefits of a 7-minute workout and deduced many benefits based on research that was already completed.

That doesn’t make the research bad or inaccurate, if not for one small problem: The studies used to “prove” the concepts don’t mirror the workout that is being lauded as the 7-minute fix for your body. That’s like saying that because there’s research showing low carb diets help with weight loss that a diet with no carbs will guarantee that you will drop fat. It doesn’t work like that. As always, the devil is in the details.

In the case of this circuit-training program, the claims outpace reality. That’s why I reached out to Brad Schoenfeld, author of The Max Muscle Plan. Schoenfeld is one of the leaders in muscle-building research, and a guy who literally wrote the book on packing on muscle. Here are some of his takeaways:

Not All Circuit Training is Equal

The general idea of the 7-minute workout is that you perform 12 bodyweight exercises as a circuit. This type of exercise is categorized as “high intensity circuit training.” No problem there, but once we moved beyond how to label the type of exercise that’s where the problems begin. “The authors make big leaps that are not substantiated,” says Schoenfeld.

Remember, the justification of this program is validated by prior research explaining why this type of workout will build muscle and burn fat. And yet, three of the four references cited are based on types of high intensity training—not interval training. “And the one circuit training study they do cite by Murphy et al. 1992 used a protocol that was nearly 3 times as long as the one proposed by the authors,” says Schoenfeld.

Even then, that study found a boost in EPOC (consider this your metabolism) that resulted in a whopping 25 additional calories burned. I don’t know about you, but I don’t consider 25 extra calories a fat-shredding workout.

Mistake #1: The type of training in the 7-minute workout is not as good for fat loss as claimed.

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Not All Exercises Are Equal

The other big flaw of this workout—besides the fact that the benefits are based on dissimilar types of training—is that the design of the program doesn’t lend itself to some of the big claims being made. No matter what anyone tells you, not all exercises are created equal. Some require more effort, activate more muscle fibers, and will generate more results. Does anyone really think that bodyweight squats are as hard as heavy barbell squats?

The authors correctly state, “When resistance training exercises using multiple large muscles are used with very little rest between sets, they can elicit aerobic and metabolic benefits.” That’s true. But if you look at the 7-minute solution, many of the exercises—crunch, plank, side plank—are not large muscle exercises, says Schoenfeld.

Another issue is that these exercises are all bodyweight moves. That’s not to say bodyweight exercise can’t be effective. I’ve seen enough crazy YouTube videos to know that bodyweight moves does a body good. And they are also extremely convenient for anyone without access to a gym. But the greatest benefit of high intensity training—not to mention the circuit training study mentioned–wasn’t performed with bodyweight exercises; they were done with added resistance, says Schoenfeld, where the weight could be manipulated to correspond to a given rep-max. (In other words, a percentage of your max strength.) The use of bodyweight does not afford this benefit, and for those who are fairly fit it would be difficult to achieve a consistent maximum level of intensity for 30 seconds that would compare to doing a similar length of time with added resistance. To use the squat example: Doing 80% of your 1-rep max on squats for a similar period of time would be much more difficult than doing 7-minutes of bodyweight squats.

The use of bodyweight does not afford this benefit, and for those who are fairly fit, it would be difficult to achieve a consistent maximum level of intensity for 30 seconds that would compare to doing a similar length of time with added resistance. To use the squat example: Doing 80% of your 1-rep max on squats for a similar period of time would be much more difficult than doing 7-minutes of bodyweight squats.

What’s more, from an aerobic endurance standpoint, it has been shown that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be an excellent alternative to traditional steady-state exercise. “However, the types of exercise performed here are not ideal for accomplishing the task,” says Schoenfeld. Exercises such as the crunch, plank and side plank will have minimal effects on energy expenditure and the amount of calories you can burn.

To further weaken their claims, the 30-second duration is not ideal for building muscular endurance. Generally, you’d want it to be about twice as long to really focus on local muscular endurance, adds Schoenfeld. Even in terms of muscle building, the research is being stretched to muscle-defying limits

Mistake #2: The exercises in the 7-minute workout as not as effective at achieving the reported benefits.

Strength (and Muscle Building) Requires Added Resistance

Just in case you were wondering, it’s also very unlikely that this routine would optimize strength. The low-intensity studies (bodyweight is low intensity) have consistently showed suboptimal strength gains when compared to heavy weight training, says Schoenfeld. “That’s because the big problem with bodyweight exercise is that you are limited to what you weigh—there is no means to overload the muscles within a given repetition range. Thus, this routine would be a poor choice for anyone looking to maximize their strength.”

Mistake #3: Based on the research quoted, in order to receive the optimal benefits suggested by the 7-minute workout you need to add resistance.

What Does The 7-Minute Workout Really Accomplish?

The 7-minute workout undeniably has some benefits. In fact, I gave it a test drive and it was difficult, raised my heart rate, and I’ve been training consistently for more than 15 years. To that end, there is nothing wrong with the workout, and it can be a great solution for anyone looking for a quick workout.

The problem is with the claims being made. The suggested benefits are very overstated for anyone who possesses even modest muscular fitness, says Schoenfeld. More importantly, it is not a well-designed routine for anyone who wants to maximize specific fitness goals such as burning fat, building muscle, or increasing strength. The funny part? The science used to “support” the claims is the same science that proves the claims are inaccurate.

While I wish the promises were true, changing your body will still require more than 7 minutes per day.


How to Build the Perfect Bodyweight Workout

The Tension Weightlifting Technique: How to Make Every Exercise More Effective

Are Planks Overrated?


  1. This work out helped me get STARTED on my road to getting fit. 7 mi utes a day, I can do. Even if it feels like it may kill me. I can’t do side planks or rotating pushups yet, but I will and just sub with their ‘beginner friendly’ counterparts. I imagine if I’m consistent, I can work up to those moves, add the number of each exercise I can do in one minute and start adding cycles. I don’t expect a perfect body in 7 minutes a day but, I know I can’t improve at all if I don’t start and the 7 minute workout is manageable for me as a beginner and uws me rom to improve in realistic incriments.

    1. Getting started is often the hardest step. Happy to hear this workout helped you get there. Thanks, Amy!

  2. 7 min workout is a great work out if you do it to your fitness level, so I do it three times, vary the exercises and do them for longer, and add weights. I do lots of walking with my dogs and weekly yoga but definitely see the difference in strength tone and positivity! 🙂

    1. Love to hear how you are incorporating the 7-minute workout into your weekly schedule. And especially love to hear that you are seeing results! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting
    a new project in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided
    us valuable information to work on. You have done a extraordinary job!

  4. Aw, this was a really good post. Finding the time and actual effort
    to generate a great article… but what can I say… I
    hesitate a whole lot and never manage to get nearly anything

  5. Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon everyday.

    It will always be exciting to read content from other authors and use a little something from other sites.

    1. So happy to hear you found what you were looking for here at Born Fitness.

  6. Wrong. You CAN develop and maintain a healthy body with bodyweight exercises only. Building muscle mass is a different story, but you don’t need to be buff to have ‘healthy’ body.

    1. Thanks for reading, Andy. I agree, you don’t need to be buff to be healthy. And, you can also get in great shape using bodyweight exercises. What I was suggesting is it is very difficult (and unlikely) to build a healthy body by only working out 7 minutes per day. It’s likely going to take more total work than that, no matter which modality you choose.

  7. What frequency is optimal for fitness, days per week, and how long? Is there an article on this?

    If it was geared towards the average person seeking their best body ever, and optimal fitness levels.

    1. Fitness should be about living a full life and doing what you love. You don’t need to live in the gym unless your goals demand it – or you enjoy it. And that directly influences the question about how many days per week you should be training. If your goal is the holy grail of muscle gain (or retention) and fat loss — while still managing your busy schedule — here’s what we’ve found works best: 3-4 days of dedicated weight training per week.  Unless you’re an advanced lifter (consistent training for the last 6-8 years), this will be more than enough to see great results. These workouts can be as short as 30-45 minutes.  And if you want to hit the next level of leanness and conditioning, you’ll also need to include some conditioning 1-2 days a week.

  8. I use the 7 minute workout for my warm up…then I do my weights and cardio. That has worked well for me. I don’t see this as your only work out for the day but it’s great after your stretch.

  9. As a mother if 4 littles, I started 7 minute workout about 5 months ago. I have seen major gains in my strength and cardiovascular fitness. I went from not being able to plank for 15 seconds to now being able to plank a max of 1 min 40 sec. I couldnt do a full lunge without falling over (I started using a chair for support), I can now do 30 lunges with front kick on each side unassisted. Could only side plank with knee. I can now hold full side plank for 45 sec with arm raised. It took me about three months to get to a point where I felt like I needed to push myself further than one round of 7 Minute Workout, but I still go back to it regularly because I still feel my muscles max and build with most of the exercises included. I feel like the 7 Minute Workout was the most important thing to getting me to exercise regularly and love it. I’m stronger and more confident in my body. To give you some background on me, I wasn’t severely overweight before I started 7 Minute Workout; about 15 lbs over normal BMI, because I had to had a baby 6 months before.

    The 7 minute workout seriously transformed my physical fitness. I know its anecdotal evidence, but my results were very clear.

    1. Andrea – thank you for sharing your story. We know how hard it can be to prioritize health and fitness with 4 little ones around, and your story is inspiring!

  10. Hi! Thanks for the interesting read, I was wondering if the 7 minute workout would be any good. I’m a bit dissapointed thought that your article’s is really short when it comes to explaining what the 7 minute workout is good for and was hoping that you could perhaps elaborate a bit as it is a very convenient workout that I seem to be able to stick to on a daily basis.

    I’m a 26 year old male, 172 cm tall and weigh 72.6kg which I believe is fine, have done a lot of fitness in the past, but that’s a couple of years behind me and I’d like to start to be a bit more fit and healthy so that I don’t run out of breath when I climb a few stairs, or, soon, go surfing when I move to Bali for 6 months. Will doing these 7 minute workouts help with achieving my goal of becoming more fit? I’m also going to start incorporating the “Runtastic” situps and pushups in my routine and perhaps might go for a run, but that hasn’t happened yet hence 🙂

    Would really appreciate your feedback!

    1. Hey Nathan, thanks for reading. You hit the nail on the head – the 7 minute workout might be the right fit to help you build consistency. When you lower the bar (with shorter workouts) you make it easier to take action. However, once that consistency is built you’ll need to progress your training to truly become more fit. Incorporating extra bodyweight work, plus runs, as you mentioned is a good place to start. And if you want to shred in Bali, be sure to include plenty of lower body mobility work as well.

  11. I loved this article, I found this article very interesting. It was really helpful for me. Thank you for sharing valuable information.

  12. I agree primarily with the notion that any fitness is better than no fitness. I’m not sure any ab workout rises to the level of an effective exercise. But, as you age, you’re fighting things like the decline of HGH and other youthful hormones. If one, at least, starts with 7-minutes, then levels up that is great, but most of these ideas are delusional. If you’re the one in a million that only needs 7-minutes that’s great! But the rest of us need something that we can do for the rest of our lives.

    1. Thanks for reading, Brian. I think we agree on most points here. For most, start where you can (and that might mean 7 minutes) and then slowly increase your workout duration/frequency if and when you can.

  13. What people made me believe was that it’s not literally a 7-minute workout for the whole day. My understanding it’s that it’s a 7-minute workout that you have to repeat throughout the day for X number of times. Would that make a difference? Thanks!

    1. Yes, performing multiple rounds throughout the day could make a difference. In fact, we’ve seen many clients turn to a shorter workouts spaced throughout the day as a way to break up their work from home day. As long as you can perform the movements pain-free, give it a shot and see if it works for you.

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